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In Season: Horseradish Root

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As far back as 1500 B.C., the Egyptians were familiar with horseradish; the early Greeks rubbed the crushed root on body pains. Later, horseradish syrup was used as an expectorant cough medicine as well as a treatment for just about everything from rheumatism to tuberculosis—not to mention, as an aphrodisiac. Horseradish struck the British fancy in the early 1600's as it became an expected pairing with beef, oysters, and cocktails, and it was used to revive exhausted travelers. Early settlers introduced North America to horseradish in the 1800s, and it took off on this side of the Atlantic, as well.

Horseradish recipes, tips, and ideas after the jump.

Prepared horseradish is readily available, but it is becoming increasingly popular to make it at home; the results can be much fresher tasting. The biting flavor and smell of horseradish strengthens when the root is grated, due to mustard oils released by enzymes when the cells are crushed. The mustard oil dissipates within 30 minutes of exposure to air, and it is destroyed by heat, so vinegar is usually used to stop the reaction and stabilize the flavor. The time at which the vinegar is added can control the heat, so if your prefer milder horseradish, add the vinegar sooner. Fresh horseradish also loses flavor as it cooks, so it is best added towards the end of a dish when cooking.

To grate your own horseradish, be very cautious; consider wearing gloves to protect your hands. Clean and peel the outer layer using a vegetable peeler, then use a fine grating surface in a downward-cross motion. If the smell is too strong or you're looking for a more time-efficient method you can use a blender to grate horseradish. Simply wash, peel, and cube the root and process in a blender or food processor in small batches, adding a little cold water to moisten. When the mixture reaches your desired consistency and taste, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and a teaspoon of salt for each cup of grated horseradish.

When selecting horseradish, look for firm roots, blemish-free, that feel heavy for their size. Homemade grated horseradish should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for four to six weeks, or in the freezer for up to six months. Whole fresh roots can be stored in airtight bags for several months in the crisper section of your refrigerator.

With a variety of uses in the kitchen, the horseradish stars in all sorts of great recipes.

Recipes

How do you like to use horseradish?

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